The NFL and the NFLPA reached an agreement regarding coronavirus-related financial issues Friday that ensured most NFL teams, including the New Orleans Saints, will be able to bring their players into training camps beginning Tuesday.
“We have worked collaboratively to develop a comprehensive set of protocols designed to minimize risk for fans, players and club and league personnel,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “These plans have been guided by the medical directors of the NFL and the NFLPA and have been reviewed and endorsed by independent medical and public health experts, including the CDC, and many state and local public health officials.
“The season will undoubtedly present new and additional challenges, but we are committed to playing a safe and complete 2020 season, culminating with the Super Bowl.”
The NFLPA executive committee, which includes Saints punter Thomas Morstead, Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins and former Saints tight end Ben Watson, voted unanimously to recommend the proposed changes. The NFLPA Board of Player Representatives voted to adopt the changes by a 29-3 vote. The Saints’ player representative is linebacker Craig Robertson, and the first alternate is linebacker Demario Davis.
The league and its players’ union agreed earlier this week when it comes to coronavirus testing and safety protocols. The issue at hand this go-round was financially-based.
Because the league is at risk of losing a substantial chunk of revenue this season because of the coronavirus pandemic, there’s fear that the salary cap will go down next year. The two sides agreed to keep the salary cap for 2020 the same at $198.2 million and to set a floor of $175 million for the cap in 2021. Though, the salary cap could be higher for 2021 if the revenue loss for the NFL is not as drastic as originally projected.
Because the league and the players’ union agreed on the $175 million figure for 2021, that means the salary cap losses will be spread out through 2023 — rather than potentially having a devastatingly low cap next season — something that would greatly affect the Saints and the potential new contracts (with the Saints or elsewhere) for 2021 free agent players like running back Alvin Kamara, linebacker Demario Davis, safety Marcus Williams and quarterback Jameis Winston.
If any or all games get canceled due to the coronavirus, the NFLPA agreed to the NFL’s terms that are essentially “pay as you play,” with a caveat that players will be owed money for canceled games in the 2021 season.
The timing on the deal was crucial, as some teams have already brought in their rookies, as the first day for rookies to be able to report to training camp was on July 21. However, the Saints have not had their rookies report just yet, as a source told The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate that the team was waiting for the all-clear from the NFL and the NFLPA.
The Saints, as of Friday afternoon, had not yet signed their four draft picks — interior lineman Cesar Ruiz, linebacker Zack Baun, tight end Adam Trautman and quarterback Tommy Stevens. It is expected the Saints will sign them when they report to camp, just as other teams have done.
Additionally, players can opt out of the 2020 season, though they must do so within the next 10 days. According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, there will be two types of opt-outs.
Players who are considered “high risk” — meaning they have moderate-to-severe asthma, sickle cell disease, Type 2 diabetes, etc. — will receive a $350,000 stipend and will still receive an accrued/credited season. Players who are not “high risk” but still want to voluntarily opt-out of the season will receive a $150,000 salary advance, but will not earn an accrued/credited season.
As was made official earlier Friday, the preseason slate for all NFL teams was canceled. Saints season ticket holders have two options. They can either receive a refund or they can use the credit towards tickets for 2021.